Thursday, November 27, 2008

Canvassing Board Denies Franken Move on Rejected Absentee Ballots


by: Bob Von Sternberg and Paul Walsh, The Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune

Recount continues in Minnesota. (Photo: Reuters)

Board members stressed that they weren't rejecting the merits of the arguments made by Al Franken's attorneys, and they made it clear that they expect the issue to be litigated.

The State Canvassing Board, a panel of five arbiters charged with determining the winner in the overtime election tussle between Republican incumbent Norm Coleman and Democratic rival Al Franken, unanimously voted this morning to deny the Franken campaign's request that rejected absentee ballots be included in the recount.

During the discussion, the board members stressed that they weren't rejecting the merits of the arguments made by Franken's attorneys. They also made it clear they expect the issue to be litigated separately from the recount procedure.

Also this morning, Secretary of State Mark Ritchie, who chairs the Canvassing Board, said that attorneys from each campaign have said they can find a way to trim the pile of ballots being challenged in counties across the state. Combined, the two sides are so far contesting more than 3,600 ballots.

"This would be a very great benefit to the Canvassing Board and the citizens of the state," Ritchie said early on at the board's meeting this morning.

Tuesday night, the Coleman campaign said that its senior counsel, Fritz Knaak, acknowledged in a fax to the Franken campaign that observers for both sides were being overly aggressive in challenging ballots "in a mounting game of ballot challenging that serves no useful purpose."

"This is not the way the recount process was intended to work," the correspondence continued, "and we are trying the patience and goodwill of election officials and volunteers throughout the state.

"While the Franken campaign began [Tuesday] morning challenging 25 ballots in one Sherburne County precinct, the vast majority without merit, it's obvious that our campaign volunteers felt the need to match these growing and unnecessary challenges throughout the day."


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